Each week, I have the humbling opportunity to serve communion to those who come to the Firestone Chapel after the worship service lets out. As I stand with the elements of bread and juice, I am challenged to think about the meaning of communion. Seminary provided me with the words to give some fancy theological description of communion, but the folks who partake in communion have taught me more about the meaning of this act than any book or professor ever could. Some come to the communion table with deep joy that God’s love offers them new life each day. Others come with a sense of gratitude, remembering it is God’s love that sustains us. Many come with the intention of repentance and recommitting their lives to Christ. In the faces of those taking communion, I see doubt, peace, anger, grief, happiness and fear. All of us are at a different place in our faith journeys, and God is with us in every season.
Something I often find striking when I talk with folks about communion is that many are afraid to come to the table. Some feel spiritually inadequate, others have serious doubts, many are going through tough times, and some are wounded—having been excluded by a church community in the past. Part of the beauty of communion is that all of us—in moments of joy or concern—commune at the same table, in need of God’s love.
I believe communion is a measure not only of God’s love, but a benchmark by which we, as a Christian community, can gauge our love. At Resurrection, all are welcome to the communion table. In the act of communion, we acknowledge that we all share in common the need for God’s love. If we truly believe this, it has radical implications for our community. It calls us to actively welcome and offer love to all in our community–not just those who look like us, act like us, are emotionally well, have their faith perfectly figured out, would fit in in our neighborhoods, who share our economic status, our race, our sexual identity or our theology—but all of God’s people who come to the table.
So, you may be wondering, how does God’s love, revealed in communion and the foundation in which we discover our call to love one another, relate to prayer? Dorothy Day, a theologian, nun and social activist paints a beautiful picture of how we can create this sort of communion community—a community of love. She writes:
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.
We know God in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of
bread, and we are not alone anymore.”
This week, I invite us to think about and pray for any people we have excluded from our “table” in the past. Who might the God of love be calling you to get to know and to extend love to? Who can we include more fully into our church community, our social groups, and our families? I challenge you to get together with one of these people and share a common meal. In preparation for the meal pray that God would give you the patience to listen, the wisdom to understand and the grace to lovingly receive someone you perceive is different than you. When it comes time to eat together, share your stories. This one small, simple act can go a long way to correct injustice, create peace and express the unfathomable depths of God’s love for all of God’s people.
–Rev. Katherine Ebling, Pastor of Prayer